Home/Daniel Larison/The Great Churchill Bust Conspiracy

The Great Churchill Bust Conspiracy

HUCKABEE: [O]ne thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits —

MALZBERG: Of Winston Churchill.

HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.

Occam’s razor: Huckabee is just ill-informed. ~Dave Weigel

I agree with Weigel that Huckabee put “a few different ideas in the blender,” but the ideas he put in “the blender” are mostly garbage. It’s not saying much for Huckabee that he just happens to be ill-informed about Obama’s youth and upbringing, which are probably the most exhaustively discussed, over-analyzed subjects of any modern presidential biography. What I find most irritating about his remarks was that he is perpetuating the painfully stupid idea that returning a bust of Winston Churchill was one of the great diplomatic slights of our time that can only be explained by referring back to Obama’s Kenyan ancestors. Returning the bust of Churchill doesn’t imply that Obama has a bad opinion of Churchill, but one wouldn’t need Obama’s family background to have a bad opinion of Churchill. If it weren’t for the obsession to distort or simply make thinks up about Obama’s foreign policy, Republicans would not have complained about the returned bust (because it doesn’t matter, the bust was scheduled to return anyway, and the British didn’t care), and there would have been no attempt to speculate about the reasons for its return.

When I first saw the story about Huckabee’s remarks, I thought that it seemed similar to his off-hand remark about Mormon beliefs during the 2007-08 primary season (“don’t they believe Jesus and the devil are brothers?”). As I think about it, there is a difference between these episodes. The first is that Huckabee said something during the primary season that was technically true, but which he presented in a somewhat misleading way because he assumed it would be extremely damaging to Romney among Christian voters. Almost everything Huckabee said in this part of the recent interview was false, but he said it because it fits into the tiresome narrative that Obama disrespects and “snubs” allies. It appears that Huckabee was also directly channeling Glenn Beck’s view on the subject. It’s hard to imagine Huckabee saying this without the two-year drumbeat of nonsensical foreign policy criticism coming from both mainstream conservative pundits and talk radio.

Update: Alex Massie has more:

The “Obama Disses Churchill” nonsense was a scoop brought in by my old chum Tim Shipman and it was, yes, a grand wee story. But even as a fun thing for a Sunday newspaper it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Yet it has lived and thrived well beyond its shelf-life, spawning and nurturing a ridiculous, cockamamie view of the 44th President and his worldview.

The notion that Obama holds some kind of unusual animus towards Britain is entirely deranged and if he doesn’t subscribe to the Cult of Churchill that’s a small point in his favour too. Obama may lack obvious Atlanticist influences or instincts but this is scarcely unusual. The British press – especially, I am afraid, on the right – loves wetting its knickers any time a new President is elected, fretting that they won’t make the “Special Relationship” the centrepiece of their foreign policy and all the rest of it.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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